Justice for the children of CAR as UN peacekeepers face trial for allegations of sexual abuse

On Monday April 4 2016, three soldiers went on trial in light of the recently published investigative reports by AIDS free world and UNICEF, which accuse UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic of sexual abuse against children. The three Congolese men from the UN’s MINUSCA peacekeeping mission in CAR were the first soldiers to be prosecuted in this huge scandal threatening the reputation of the UN and the French military.

One of the soldiers, Sergeant Jackson Kikola, was tried for raping a 17 year old and disobeying orders. Another, Sergeant major Kibeka Mulamba Djuma, faced similar charges as Sergeant Kikola, while the third, sergeant major Nsasi Ndazu was prosecuted for attempted rape and disobedience. They all pleaded not guilty.

18 other soldiers from the Democartic Republic of Congo, who have been accused of rape or attempted this during their peacekeeping mission in CAR were also in court to appear before the tribunal in Ndolo, a military prison in the DRC. Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, Justice Minister of DRC, is quoted to have said that the Congolese military force cannot be discredited by a few individuals, and that absolute transparency is needed in the prosecution.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has been under investigation by the UN since last year, following a series of allegation of human rights violations against these peacekeepers. Last week, UN investigators uncovered 108 alleged cases of sexual abuse against children by peacekeepers, a revelation that shocked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the core.

According to reports, up to 100 victims have come forward with sickening accounts of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and French forces, including senior officials. Some were raped, some were forced to have sex with soldiers in exchange for food, or money, and others were subject to bestiality, tied and forced to have sex with a dog. These incidents are particularly alarming, as they may have taken place in public with many witnesses.

French President, Francois Hollande, has said that there will be no mercy for any French soldier found guilty of abuse, and that anyone convicted would face military discipline and possible criminal penalties. “We cannot, and I cannot, accept the slightest stain on the reputation of our armed forces or of France.”

With three hearings scheduled each week in the DRC, the entire process will take months to complete, but like Ida Sawyer, an advocate for Human Rights Watch said, it is definitely a step in the right direction to end impunity amongst foreign troops in host countries. However, the victims of the abuse were absent during trial, an action that some has said will constitute a major obstacle in the demonstration of truth.

Under UN rules, it is the responsibility of countries who supplied soldiers to investigate and prosecute their soldiers in any case of sexual abuse, hence other countries involved should toe the path of the DRC and commence trial for accused soldiers.

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